St. Michael’s Special School caters for pupils with physical and intellectual disabilities and some who also have autism. On 25th February, 2016 all staff and pupils travelled to Dublin on the Club Rossie bus. It was a momentous day from the start. All the children were greeted by the wonderful sight of the striking blue and yellow bus waiting especially for them. It was a magical surprise for them all. In a Special School it can be more difficult to organise a ‘big trip’ so this was a real treat for everyone. Being able to make it extra special by having the Club Rossie bus was a tremendous boost.
It was thanks to St. Croan’s Club especially Michael Holland that students were enabled to travel in such style. David O’Connor Chairman, Club Rossie, understood the value and importance of inclusion for pupils with special needs and facilitated the planning of the experience as much as possible.
Students who have special needs particularly identify with the visual structures around the county identity. In St. Michael’s pupils are encouraged from a young age to support their local club and county. GAA, more than any other sport, has a community ethos that increases accessibility for those with special needs. Club Rossie epitomises the underlying value of supporters as well as players.
Many students attending St. Michael’s are loyal supporters of their local clubs and their county team. They enjoy “wearing the jersey” and joining in the cheers. This was one of the reasons a visit to Croke Park was so important for the school.
The students are so familiar with the venue and could appreciate its atmosphere and significance. The visual and community aspect of the Club Rossie bus has a strong impact on our students as it reinforces their sense of inclusion and pride in their county. From their start in the school each student is constantly taught to be confident in stating their name, age and county. GAA news is a theme common to all students and enables teachers to highlight a real sense of belonging and participation for students. Opportunities for this level of involvement and relevance can be limited for many students in St. Michael’s.
The school is very grateful to Nuala Diffley who handled the timetabling of our trip. Her interest and assistance was exceptional. The helpful driver on the day, Padraig Healy, was allowed to drive us all the way to Cusack’s statue, at the top of the steps to the Museum. Door-to-door excitement and comfort made the journey and the day so much more enjoyable. The staff in Croke Park were very considerate and welcoming, and the school was received with warm smiles at every stage of the tour. We appreciate that Anthony Cahill, Supervalu, Castlerea (and a loyal friend of St. Michaels) sponsored the cost of our Croke Park tour.
Travelling on the Club Rossie bus genuinely added an extra dimension to this trip. Staff and families appreciate this opportunity to include pupils with special needs. The Club Rossie bus is a wonderful asset for the County and definitely ensured that St Michael’s Special School had one of the most memorable days in its history.